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Symptoms in Schizophrenia

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Symptoms in Schizophrenia

Published ca. 1940s

Shows masked mental patients enacting various schizophrenic symptoms as they were understood at the time. A disturbing film that raises questions about the condition and treatment of its subjects.

Run time 13:07
Producer Pathescope Productions
Sponsor N/A
Audio/Visual Si, B&W


Danger Lurks Safety Psychology Psychiatry Mental illness Mental disorders Psychiatric disorders Mental patients Masks Privacy Hebephrenia


Reviewer: JSBejma - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 27, 2014
Subject: Today it's Often Called "Autism"

Approximately 30% of "autistics" (diagnosed as such today) are actually schizophrenics. Not all schizophrenics are as severely psychotic as those in the film, and not all schizophrenia has an onset after childhood. Another 30% are individuals with severe personality disorders. But heaven forbid labeling someone these days.

Pharmacology beginning about 20 years later would allow about 80% of the patients you see here to be released with relatively few problems - as long as they were compliant.

Had a schizoid neighbor once whose main symptom (far as I could see) was that he'd get upset if while you were talking to him, your face was not in his direct sight (I guess he couldn't separate "the voices" from the person actually talking to him).

Nice film demonstrating some of the major symptoms of this disease, the exact cause of which is yet to discovered.
Reviewer: orphan_film_symposium - - May 18, 2014
Subject: the film is 1938
Guide to Mental Health Motion Pictures


Page, James D.;
Psychological Cinema Register of the Pennsylvania State College

Abstract: This film describes and demonstrates four types of schizophrenia. Filmed at various New York institutions, it shows patients singly and grouped in large, outside recreational areas. Some patients are blindfolded. Symptoms shown include: social apathy, delusions, hallucinations, hebephrenic reactions, cerea flexibilitas, rigidity, motor stereotypes, posturing, and echopraxia.
Reviewer: porrohman - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 28, 2010
Subject: still exists today
As straznge and disturbing as this seems, the masks are in place to conceal the identities of the patients. There was no digital blurring at the time and even placing censor bars was difficult. Looks like it was produced in house as a training film.
It's really a good piece. Today we try so hard to sweep this under the rug yet it still exists, in just this fashion.
Reviewer: Acomuna - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 21, 2009
Subject: Pre-Pharmacologic Era
Someone must remind that at this time pharmacologic treatment for schizophrenia was not yet available. No psychiatric reform, as a political movement, discharged more psychiatric inpatients than the revolution brought by the Psychopharmacolgy.
Reviewer: unzar - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 16, 2009
Subject: An Afternoon at the Asylum
An interesting look back at mental illness. Some of it looks like "Simon Says at Ye Olde Nut Shoppe."

The lack of audio increases the surreal effect.

As to their living in the institution it was no doubt better than living on the street as many of the mentally ill do today.

The End.
Reviewer: protoject - - August 6, 2008
Subject: hey
is this film only without sound?
Reviewer: santal - - August 2, 2008
Subject: re doctor positioning patients in 'pantomime'
So many misconceptions here, but the idea of using this film for 'entertainment' is embarrassing and shameful, anyone who finds it entertaining needs to do some serious self-evaluation.

Re consent. Many patients would not understand the filming, they would be too absorbed in their delusions. Some might have thought they were jesus or a king, so it is natural to want to film them. Or they may have feared someone was trying to spy on them (a commonly found delusion). But many would have felt safe in the routine of the hospital and understood it was to educate doctors and students, and could help others with the illness.

Re medications. In the 1940's there was no specific medication for schizophrenia, but sedatives, by closing down ion channels of nerve cells, could have helped to protect the person's brain cells long term from the disease process. In severe cases a great deal of brain tissue can be lost unless something can protect the brain. Despite annoying side effects modern antipsychotic medication do seem to protect nerve cells and slow down the process of the disease.

Re the doctor putting the patient in positions - it is to teach students the difference between the postures of the schizophrenic and those with other muscle problems - there is no spasticity, muscle rigidity - the person with catatonia shows 'waxy flexibility' and a person can move their limbs without sensing any spasm or rigidity of muscle. It also shows what this is - not a muscle disorder but that schizophrenia (when severe) can affect the ability to correctly perceive one's position and posture. People will even rest in a bed with their head up slightly off the pillow.

Re these people having tourettes or ocd instead of schizophrenia - no. These movements are a part of schizophrenia, my homeless (untreated) friends all do things like this. It is a very common part of schizophrenia and easy to see when the person is untreated. Additionally, home videos show these people making the same movements as children long before they were diagnosed - often then the movements will disappear, and not emerge again til the person becomes (obviously) ill. It suggests even more the neurological nature of this illness.

Re the doctor moving the patient's limbs. Incorrect again. The doctor is demonstrating 'waxy flexibility' that is a part of catatonia.

This was a very common demonstration and could be seen again and again in medical schools. It is very important because 'waxy flexibility' differentiates catatonia from other neurological disorders. 'Waxy flexibility' is seen when the person assumes a posture, but someone can move the person's arms or legs for them, and the person will assume the new posture.

The arms or legs are not rigid, spastic or contracted. There is no muscle spasm or tremor. This is important and differentiates catatonia from other also shows it is about perceiving posture, rather than an actual muscle disorder.
Reviewer: halory - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - June 7, 2008
Subject: mpeg 2 is not loading
I love this movie and I would like to use it for artistic purposes but the mpeg2 version is not loading. Is there anything that could be done to upload it back ? Please ?
Reviewer: asylum23 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - January 13, 2008
Subject: Very Interesting
This film was very interesting, yet haunting.

Schizophrenia at the time must have been the end-all diagnosis for many mentally ill patients. Watching this footage, it is clear many are suffering from OCD and/or Tourette's Syndrome, and perhaps not Schizophrenia at all.

Too bad it was not recorded with sound, I bet it would be interesting to hear what they are saying.

The fact that the catatonics move to a more normal pose in extremely slow motion is similar to what Oliver Sacks found. His patient Myron Z was also moving in slow motion "One of his patients, Myron Z, was basically frozen in odd positions for hours at a time, but Sachs would sometimes notice that Myron had changed positions during these episodes. Sachs pointed this out to Myron, who said “That’s ridiculous. I was just wiping my nose.” Sachs then filmed Myron over 2 hours and replayed the film at a faster rate of speed. Sure enough, Myron had been moving in slow motion, so slow that it was imperceptible to people with normal time perception. However, Myron didn’t realize it. Another patient, Hestor Y, was the opposite. She was living at a greatly increased speed, but also had no idea."

You have to wonder if time actually slowed down for them.

I also wonder if the doctors got the patients dressed up for the filming, it was strange to see them in dresses and suits.
Reviewer: GE_Pretzel - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - March 21, 2006
Subject: Astounding footage
Disturbing as it may be, the footage in this film effectively reveals many of the various forms of schizophrenia that have afflicted mankind for millenia. Intertitles accompany each scene and fetaure the medical terminology in use at the time. The footage of the man suffering from cerea flexibilitas is quite haunting.
Reviewer: Mr.Grey - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - August 5, 2005
Subject: Adult Swim
I recently noticed scenes from this brilliant film used in a suitably surreal and esoteric ad spot for the bizarre late-night cartoon program Adult Swim. It prompted me to rewatch the copy I downloaded from this archive several years ago, and it was just as amazing as when I first watched it. Seeing it again renewed my interest in the archive here and I was very happy to see so many new titles, as well as the larger framework for upload/download. Genius, and so gratious. Thanks. I plan on uploading many films from my own collection to spread the wealth in kind.
Reviewer: Marysz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 28, 2005
Subject: Who's Running the Asylum?
A fascinating, but troubling film that makes one wonderÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂwhose behavior is ultimately more disturbing? The masked patients displaying their symptoms or the staff that put the masks on these vulnerable people and filmed them? I canÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt help wondering if the patientsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ symptoms werenÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt exacerbated by the doctorsÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ dehumanizing treatment of them. Could it be that the ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂapathy and an absence of social contactÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂ that this film defines as mental illness could have been brought on by the conditions of their institutionalization? This is not to minimize the reality of psychotic symptoms or the helplessness that psychiatrists at the time felt when they didnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt respond to treatment. This film was made in the era when Freudian psychoanalysis ruled; now we know that these symptoms can be controlled with medication. At least the mental hospital where this film was made looks home-like and the patients appear to be well-fed and cared for, which could be the best that could be done for them. But watching this film brings to mind the fact that about the same time this film was made, Joseph Mengele was carrying out his gruesome experiments in Nazi Germany.
Reviewer: Spuzz - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - July 2, 2005
Subject: Stand BACK!!
Unworldly little movie no doubt made for doctors to show other doctors case examples of people suffering from schizophrenia.
While some people have called this a freak show, just remember this was made for doctors, so yes, this does have some value. Interesting how some of the patients had crude masks, like in Zorro or some sort of misunderstood superhero.
Also worth noting is that this movie WAS made in the 1930ÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs, so a lot about schizophrenia and psychiatry wasnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt really well known at the time, (and heck, Tom Cruise, even Tom CruiseÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂs Mom wasnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt around to diss it). I wonder how many of these symptoms could be helped by modern drugs today.
Reviewer: boxcarhobo - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - May 12, 2005
Subject: I were a PATIENT there-C.S.H. in them OLD DAYS!
I rekognysed many them buildins. I were in GRIFFIN HALL, big three story,I weere ther 8 year. My name is JOHNNY BERNAYS...I war from Gandmother was RECREATION DIRECTER at ARK> STATE HOSPITAL she HAD ME send to NORMAN CENTRAL STATE because it was BETTER CARE for CHRONIC NEVER EXPECTED to be RELEASED Patients! I worked in RADIO/TV shop (I had, still have AMATUER RADIO License...& Broadcast Engineer Training..) I were Discheerged (after 8 years THERE+ 10 Years at ARKANSAS STATE HOSPITAL COLONY in 1977, given SSI, (NOTE!!!! SSI was ORDERED, GRANTED & APPROVED by A REPUBLICIAN- Ger. FORD!!!!Not a DEMON_CRAP!!!(democrat) I am now OLD, FEEBLE, PSYCHOTIC & TARDIVE DYSKINSEA living in TENT in San Diego, CA. I still have HAM RASDIO (KD5MPM) and ERN CASH playing GUITAR (a SEAGULL S-6 Moduel And CW SW 1999 Artist Special MAPLE release)And got this TOSHIBA TECRA 8200 Lap Topo....CANNOT GET HELP from MENTAL HEALTH..fools! TD is a SEVERE NON CURATABLE DISORDER CAUSED by PSYCHTROPIC DRUGS...but THEY WANT TO GIVE ME MORE & CREATE a SPASTIC CRETIN! IDIOTS!
Reviewer: Avid_Fan - favoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - October 31, 2004
Subject: Lets keep a few things in perspective here, Marysz.
A fascinating, but troubling film that makes one wonderÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂwhose behavior is ultimately more disturbing? The masked patients displaying their symptoms or the staff that put the masks on these vulnerable people and filmed them?

This film was made as a learning tool for professionals in the field of Psychiatry. Not something to be shown at the Saturday afternoon matinee. They were masked to protect their identities. Furthermore, one man in the film (standing at a window) appeared to be having a very detailed and heated argument with someone, who simply wasn't there. If that level of bizarre behavior makes perfect sense to him, I very seriously doubt he had any qualms about being filmed. In fact, he behaved as though the camera wasn't there. And in his mind (I very much believe) it wasn't.


I don't know. But then again, when someone is incurably insane as many (if not all) of the subjects in this film were, the questions that beg asking are: Do they feel its dehumanizing? And if so, how can we know this?

Dehumanizing? That is a pretty strong word, isn't it? And not very accurate. Moving the mans body around was done to demonstrate the symptom of his particular form of Schizophrenia. Not for the amusement of the demonstrator or the audience. I saw no humor in the demonstrators face. What I did see, however, was pity.


Brought on? No. Made worse? Sure. We didn't have the variety of psychoactive drugs we do now. So it stands to reason to say that: What doesn't get treated, or is treated incorrectly, only gets worse.

This is not to minimize the reality of psychotic symptoms or the helplessness that psychiatrists at the time felt when they didnÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂÃÂt respond to treatment. This film was made in the era when Freudian psychoanalysis ruled; now we know that these symptoms can be controlled with medication.

Of course Freudian psychoanalysis ruled. The reason it did is because we hadn't discovered the "Chemical Cure". Freudian psychoanalysis was (for all intents and purposes) the only weapon we had to combat the problem. There was, of course, Insulin shock, electro-shock therapy and the frontal lobotomy. But those were spotty at best.

At least the mental hospital where this film was made looks home-like and the patients appear to be well-fed and cared for, which could be the best that could be done for them.

That is about all we could do back then. We were no closer to understanding the nature of Schizophrenia in the 1940's than we were in the 1840's.

But watching this film brings to mind the fact that about the same time this film was made, Joseph Mengele was carrying out his gruesome experiments in Nazi Germany.

I'm trying to draw a line between the legitimate study of the symptoms of different forms of Schizophrenia and Joseph Mengele. Help me understand the correlation between an educational film made for the benefit of the mental health community and a Nazi Doctor - the "Angel of Death" of Auschwitz.

Avid Fan

I gave it four out of five because there wasn't any sound. :)
Reviewer: krista56 - favoritefavoritefavoritefavoritefavorite - December 8, 2003
Subject: great!
Great film. It was interesting to see the symptoms of schizophrenia "come alive". I had fun trying to figure out what was each patients motivation and pre-psychotic years were like. It is also intreguing because since this film is old, these patients weren't on anti-psychotic medication--so at this point psychiatrists were trying to figure schizophrenics out (which is why they *experiment* with them)--not so much treat them. New psychiatric research had arrived about the illness since the film was made, so it would be interesting to compare a modern film with this one.
If you are interested in seeing a fabulous movie about a schizophrenic (WHICH IS AN ACCURATE PORTRAYAL!--unlike many today) see:
"Revolution #9"
Reviewer: Biflspud - favoritefavoritefavorite - September 1, 2003
Subject: Fun with schizophrenics!
Given the age of the film, it's not terribly surprising that little could be done for the people in this film. What is surprising is how much is done to/with them; several forms of schizophrenia on display (this film is essentially an interactive exhibit of the syndrome) allow the "therapist" to pose, push around, and force the sufferers into distorted pantomime. It's a little sad, really, but it does what it promised to do, explores the symptomology of the disease.
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